General Articles

Past, Present, Prevention: Real Messages to Stop HIV Infection

Since our founding over four decades ago, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) has been concerned with the state of sexual health among our nation’s young people. Too many young people have become infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, and faced the harsh realities of unintended pregnancy and teen parenthood. This is particularly true for groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM)s, young women, and other traditionally underserved communities. Despite these clear public health issues, ensuring that young people receive sexuality education has often felt like an uphill battle. Providing young people with the information and skills they need to protect themselves has been hampered by the traditional stigmas and societal squeamishness that seem to accompany any discussion related to sexuality. 

The emergence of the HIV epidemic in the early 1980s added a new dimension to the public health concerns about teenage sexual behavior, and the reality of this life-threatening disease spurred many schools and communities to create education programs. After overcoming first silence and then resistance from government and policymakers, advocates and educators made great progress in raising the visibility of sexual health and the need for responsible sexual behavior. Most young people who came of age in the late 1980s and early 1990s were exposed to some form of a “safe sex” message. Whether it was through school, after-school programs, or the media, at least one message became clear—use a condom every time . . . Click Here to read the full report